Protect the floodplain runoff for our barramundi and fishing lifestyle

Dear Chief Minister and Minister Lawler, 

I am very concerned about the proposal to build on-farm dams, capture large volumes of surface water, bulldoze large areas of native bush, and grow industrial-scale crops like cotton along our mighty rivers and floodplains - the Roper and the Daly.

These great Territory rivers are the lifeblood of our coasts. The Roper flows into Limmen Bight Marine Park sustaining the ecosystem, which includes extensive seagrass beds, home to turtle and dugong populations and habitat for prawns, barramundi and mudcrab. 

The Daly River is highly regarded as the premier barramundi sports fishing location in Australia. Tourists flock from all over to try and catch one of the Daly’s legendary trophy sized barramundi and explore one of the most beautiful and abundant rivers in Northern Australia.

A new study into the impacts of water extraction on the Daly River has revealed that less water means fewer barramundi. Decreasing river system flow is directly proportional to the decline in barramundi recruitment. This study predicted a negative impact in both wet and dry seasons, with recruitment more than halved in some scenarios. For example, an extraction of 40 per cent of annual river flow was predicted to result in a 40 to 50 per cent decline in barramundi recruitment in the Daly River. 

The researchers say “there is a common perception that fresh water that flows into estuaries is “wasted to the sea” if it is not harnessed for consumptive uses. However, this research demonstrates that freshwater outflows are fundamental to maintaining fishery productivity, and depend on the strength of the wet season and the resulting river flows”.

We’ve seen the disastrous impacts of bad regulation, dams and water extraction for cotton on the Murray-Darling River. It would be a huge mistake to repeat them on the Roper and the Daly.

Without adequate safeguards in place led by local communities, destructive proposals threaten the health of the Roper and Daly Rivers. Healthy rivers and coasts are central to our Top End way of life, the great NT fishing experience and our economy. They are critical to our shared future for a better Territory.

I ask that you protect the Roper and Daly rivers by ruling out the proposal to harvest more surface water and run-off from their floodplains.